The Eternal Horror of Shotgun Recoil

Discussed in more detail in previous articles, the subject of "recoil" is one that just won't go away. There are things that make a tangible difference in shotgun shooting comfort; most of the drama included in recoil discussions is not of great help.

It holds true for all firearms; heavier guns are more comfortable to shoot over long periods. Regardless of firearm, if that firearm is heavier it will have less rearward force on your shoulder than a lighter one. There is something to be said for shooting the heaviest shotgun that you can carry comfortably under your own conditions of use if recoil is an issue.

Fixed breech guns have little to absorb recoil, and are the hardest kicking guns made. There is no question about it; if you want a soft shooting gun . . . gas operated guns are the answer for the most part. Recoil is the same as a "number," but it affects you over a longer period of time.

Beyond that, the eternal recoil questions have simple answers-- but not the answers you might want to hear. If a gun pounds you to the point of discomfort, you have two options: use a slower load, or use a lighter payload. That's it, those are the only things that really mean something to a gun you already own.

You can forget backboring, gauge, wads, powder, and pressure. Pressure in a shotshell, meaning peak pressure, all happens inside the shell and has nothing at all to do with recoil, period. You cannot get away from the fundamentals of muzzle velocity and shotshell payload. The more creative advertising departments have tried and always will. Nothing comes close to careful shotshell selection, if recoil is an issue for you. Porting (in a shotgun) won't change your world, except to annoy those around you. Aftermarket chokes can do a lot of things, but reducing recoil in a meaningful way isn't one of them. It is still reduce payload, reduce velocity if you want to make your shooting more comfortable.

Sure, recoil pads help soak up recoil. Kick-Eez and Limbsaver remain the two choices I've found to be always helpful. The Limbsaver shirts and vests help as well. So does the "PAST" pad, though most find it impractical in the field, even if it is an effective barrier at the bench.

This brief article does not try to sell you on drilling extra holes in your barrel, it does not suggest that bore diameter means anything, and it hopefully will dissuade you than powder, wad and other trivial matters are anything more than just that: trivia.

Common sense and matters of fact are usually hyperbole free. Recoil is a simplistic, boring matter for the most part. A somewhat heavy gas-operated auto that fits you well with a Limbsaver pad and relatively light and slow shotshells can be an eerie shotgun to shoot: you know you've "found it" when you can barely feel the action working. I've found the standard Browning Gold 20 gauges with 7/8 oz. 1200 fps loads to be just that soft.

One of the primary factors that might confuse the issue is the cumulative effect of recoil. Just taking a shot or two, then pronouncing recoil as "not that bad" or "soft" doesn't mean much, unless you plan on only taking a "shot or two." You may not ever intend to shoot cases a day, either, but there is a lot of room in between. It is the difference between a gun that wears you out by the time you have your limit on doves, and feeling the exact same way after shooting as before you started.

Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.




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